Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Sleep Easy with Arthritis

If you have chronic pain due to arthritis you need to work with your doctor to make sure the medications you are taking aren’t affecting the quantity and quality of your sleep. Your doctor may switch your medications or tell you to take them at a different time of day. There are other lifestyle changes that can work to control your pain. Using other methods in conjunction with your medication will help you sleep easy with arthritis. Taking a warm bath or shower, using a heating pad/ice pack and/or doing some gentle stretching before you go to bed will improve your capability to fall asleep. Remember not to do any intense exercising before bed as this will increase your heart rate and it will take you longer to fall asleep. What other methods can you do to reduce arthritic pain and get a good night’s sleep?

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Get a comfortable bed. If you have an older mattress that sags you can get a bed board to place under the mattress or a memory foam mattress pad for the top. I have arthritic pain in my lower back due to degenerative disk disease and pain in my shoulders and I recommend a memory foam mattress pad as it contours to my body while alleviating pressure points. If you can’t afford a memory foam mattress pad you can add one or two foam egg-crate pads. These are especially good if your mattress is too hard. If you sleep with your partner and can afford a new mattress the Sleep Number bed can adjust each side of the bed individually with just a push of a button. Adjustable beds with a traditional mattress that can change head and knee heights are also available on the market. The price range varies widely depending on the retailer and/or manufacturer. See more information about memory foam mattress pads.

Along with making your bed as comfortable as possible you also need a good pillow to support your neck and head. There are many different types of pillows today so you might want to try a few. If you have back or neck pain a cervical or memory foam pillow can support you neck, head and spine and keep your body in proper alignment. My favorite pillow is a 2 in 1 pillow. It features a molded memory foam side and a plush microfiber side that will give you double the softness and support. A memory foam wedge placed under your knees can also support your back. Since I sleep on my side most of the time I use the 2 in 1 pillow to support my head and neck and a full body pillow to rest my knee on to maintain back alignment and reduce hip and back pain. You can purchase specialty pillows online or at department stores. I purchased my 2 in 1 pillow at Kohls on Black Friday as the price was ½ off. It is also available at amazon.com Serta 2-in-1 Memory Foam PillowBed Pillows).

Bedding can play an important part in getting a good night sleep. I love cotton sheets and a heavy comforter but heavy covers can put a lot of pressure on your feet and ankles. If you have arthritis and heavy blankets are causing you to have sore feet and ankles it may be better for you to use an adjustable blanket. Adjustable blankets make it easier to turn and change positions during the night. Sheets that are soft such as high quality cotton or satin can also make it less painful to turn over. Side railings can make it easier for you to turn over and a partial railing can help you to sit up and stand when getting out of bed.

For anyone to get a good night’s sleep your room needs to be cozy, cool, dark and quiet. When trying to fall asleep while in pain you may need other sleep aids that will improve your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. If your sleep partner snores some ear plugs or Mp3 player may drown out the noise. You can download sleep music, sleep sounds such as ocean waves or a thunderstorm, self-hypnotic progressive relaxation methods or white noise on your Mp3 player. There are pillows on the market where you can attach your Mp3 player directly to the pillow or just make your own. Here is how from eHow:

Things You'll Need

• MP3 player
• Comfortable pillow
• Ear buds
• Fabric
• Scissors
• Needle and thread

1 Use the scissors to cut a slit in one side of the pillow. The slit should be made on the side of the pillow that faces the end of the bed. (You don’t want to have to run a cable under the person sleeping next to you.) Make the slit long enough that you can fit your hands inside the pillow.

2 Wrap each of the ear buds in a piece of fabric. It doesn’t matter what color this fabric is, as it will be hidden inside the pillow. Sew the fabric around each ear bud. Next, sew the ear bud pockets to the inside of the pillow, working through the slit you cut. The pocket of fabric will keep the ear bud in place, even as you shift around while sleeping. If you want, you can combine the ear buds into one piece of fabric.

3 Provide further security for the ear bud by looping the thread around the cable that leads through the slit. The better job you do, the less chance you’ll have to replace the ear buds. If you don’t care about aesthetics, use a piece of fabric-based tape. You may be tempted to use duct tape, but that kind of tape is too hard, and may make distracting sounds while you’re trying to listen to your radio.

4 Sew the slit in the pillow shut, making sure not to pierce the cable you’ve just installed. Put the pillow inside a pillowcase, and presto: you’re ready to fall asleep to the soothing voices of podcast hosts.

5 Plug the headphone cable into a device capable of playing MP3s. If you move around a lot as you sleep, you may want to invest in an extension cable so you have plenty of slack. Test the volume in your MP3 pillow speakers to make sure you’re the only one who can hear, and you’re all set.

Remember using other electronic devices like TV, video games or your computer will only keep you up passed your bedtime as it is recommended by many sleep specialists to go to bed (without gadgets) and get up each day at the same time, even on the weekends. If you have used these methods to drown out your partners snoring and it doesn’t help you may want to have them sleep in another bedroom. See Couples Sleep Easy Together or Apart for more information.

Some other sleep tips: Limit liquids (especially caffeinated beverages) before going to bed to eliminate waking in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and then having a tough time falling back to sleep. Avoid excess alcohol. Alcohol can help you to fall asleep, but when the effect wears off you will sleep restlessly and not get the deep sleep you need to feel refreshed in the morning. Got a lot to do tomorrow? It is better to get the to-do-list on paper and out of your mind in order for you to relax and not toss and turn with a busy mind.

People with arthritis often take prednisone and other corticosteroid drugs which can affect their ability to fall asleep. See Prednisone Insomnia for more information. Other medications like decongestants and blood pressure drugs can cause sleep problems and many resort to prescription sleeping pills or over-the-counter (OTCs) sleep aids that contain antihistamine to fall asleep. Prescription drugs and OTCs have many side effects and may cause a drug dependency and should only be used in rare circumstances for only a short period of time. Hopefully acquiring other natural methods and a few lifestyle changes can lessen the pain associated with arthritis. Studies have shown over the past decades that certain foods are beneficial for arthritis sufferers.

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Foods high in Omega 3 fatty acid such as salmon, flax seeds or walnuts; extra virgin olive oil, foods rich in vitamin C like broccoli, bell peppers, strawberries and kiwi; selenium-rich foods for instance brazil nuts, cod and snapper; beta-cryptoxanthin foods including red bell pepper, papaya, corn and watermelon and a diet that consists of tart cherries, either dried or tart cherry juice concentrate. Tart cherries are also known to help you fall asleep easier just like foods containing tryptophan such as a warm glass of milk, turkey, cereal, nuts and pumpkin seeds to name a few.

Herbs and other supplements that help arthritis as an alternative to prescription medications include: Pine Bark extract, Bromelain, Ginger and Turmeric spices, Ashwagandha, Boswellia, Seaweed extracts and Aloe Vera. Other supplements clinically linked to improve arthritic symptoms are: Glucosamine, Chondroitin and MSM (methylsulfonylemethane).

If you have problems sleeping with arthritic pain and you have tried many remedies you might have another sleep disorder like sleep apnea, narcolepsy or restless legs syndrome. He/she may recommend a sleep specialist to determine and diagnose your sleep problem. The content provided in Sleep Easy with Arthritis is for information purposes only, intended to raise the awareness of different solutions for you or your families sleep problems and should not be considered medical advice. For medical diagnosis and treatment, please see your qualified health-care professional. See Rheumatoid Arthritis Sleep Tips and Foods that Trigger RA Symptoms for more information

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